TitleThe Reinvention of Atlantic Slavery: Technology, Labor, Race, and Capitalism in the Greater Caribbean
Publication TypeBook
Year of Publication2017
PublisherOxford University Press
CityNew York
Abstract

The Reinvention of Atlantic Slavery shows how, at a moment of crisis after the Age of Revolutions, ambitious planters in the Upper US South, Cuba, and Brazil forged a new set of relationships with one another to sidestep the financial dominance of Great Britain and the northeastern United States. They hired a transnational group of chemists, engineers, and other "plantation experts" to assist them in adapting the technologies of the Industrial Revolution to suit "tropical" needs and maintain profitability. These experts depended on the know-how of slaves alongside whom they worked. Bondspeople with industrial craft skills played key roles in the development of new production technologies like sugar mills. While the very existence of skilled enslaved workers contradicted the racial ideologies underpinning slavery and allowed black people to wield new kinds of authority within the plantation world, their contributions reinforced the economic dynamism of the slave economies of Cuba, Brazil, and the Upper South. When separate wars broke out in all three locations in the 1860s, the transnational bloc of masters and experts took up arms to perpetuate the Greater Caribbean they had built throughout the 1840s and 1850s. Slaves played key wartime roles on the opposing side, helping put an end to chattel slavery. However, the worldwide racial division of labor that emerged from the reinvented plantation complex has proved more durable.

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